Life After Hate

A former neo-NAZI with a bloody and violent past undergoes a stark transformation into someone who promotes peace and tolerance. People in his life wonder: has he changed?

During the late ’80s and early ’90s, Arno Michaelis was rising to prominence in the white supremacist movement in the U.S. He’s still a tough looking guy: a lean 6’3 with shadows of swastika tattoos on his arms and chest, some of which have been removed. 

In a CBC Radio program titled Metamorphosis, Michaelis talks about falling in with a white supremacist group, and violent rampages with his skinhead crew, fueled by alcohol and hate. He talks about one incident where he and his friends beat up a long-haired, hippy-looking white man, kicking him with their steel-toed boots:

“I felt like a machine hitting this guy, and he had at this point just gone limp. At that point I had a sensation that if I kept doing this, this guy was going to die. It was just a mental note and I kept going. I didn’t keep going because I expressly wanted to kill him, I kept going because there was no consciousness in my mind, there was no thought, it was just all fight.”

What changed in Michaelis’ life? Besides a slow move away from his skinhead group, he says he had a realization when picking up his daughter from…